Why Newspaper Deaths Should Scare Talk Radio

Tuesday, March 17, 2009.  St Patrick’s Day. The Irish are drinking their beer and the newspaper folk are crying in it.

It’s grievous to read the news today, oh boy, that the Seattle P.I. published its final issue this morning. The PI’s owener, Hearst is ready to pull the plug on the Houston Chronicle and other bleeding newspapers they own. But look on the bright side. Without “drive-by media” (Limbaugh’s term) to kick when they’re down, parasitic Talk Radio bloviators — who make their living by ingesting and ridiculing what actual reporters write– will die, too. The loudmouth Limbaughs in radio market nationwide will simply starve because they’ll have no carcass to feast upon, vultures that they are.

The demagogues of the airwaves — unelected, self-appointed faux reporters and narcissistic vox populi — can’t be expected to transfer their contempt for the New York Times to some powerless little blogger, or even the biggest bloggers in the sphere, the Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, the Daily Kos and a few hundred million I can’t recall.

The moribund P.I. may bring momentary joy to Talk Radio. But beyond that little ecstasy is the void.  One less soft target. The radio demagogues are an envious bunch and they love those easy targets. Once the targets have gone the way of the Seattle P.I., the Limbaugh legions will be out of targets and sources. Yes, they’ll continue targeting liberal politicians and double their efforts to invent sources. But the flame is going to flicker without the NY Times to burn.

Don’t expect call-in-radio to cease and desist. But there’ll be less fuel for the usual incivility and piling on. Web sites and blogs don’t catch fire — or ire —  as easily as newspaper. What Karl Rove has called “anger points” are as strategically central to Talk Radio as cleavage is to Cable TV.

For Talk Radio, it’s time to get out the crying towels.  Hey — and that means you, too, on the left — Rachel and Keith. Fair’s fair. But, wait: Maddow and Olbermann do their opining (sans cleavage) on cable TV, where a steady stream of clever visuals and talking-heads will continue to drive positive ratings.  Radio talk  show hosts don’t enjoy that visual advantage. On the radio, it’s all about the vocal chatter.  For right wing talk shows, the medium is their mess.

Did someone say, “Fairness Doctrine,” that bete noire of the talk show hosts? Despite the talk host paranoia that the post-Bushian/Obamian universe is gunning for them, the demise of right wing political talk radio won’t happen because Pelosi, Barney Frank and Obama with all their wussy pablum about “civility”. Not at all.  The radio talkers won’t lose their tongues  because the despised liberal-left rose up. They’ll go silent because the hated liberal media petered out.

Here’s what talk radio doesn’t want you to know: Next to the caricatures of Drunken Teddy and Commie Pelosi, the biased, liberal, “drive-by media” are a talk radio’s best friends.

But where’s the love? On a day when even your lifelong adversary bites the dust, I doubt talk radio hosts bothered to send an e-sympathy card to the Seattle P.I. staffers packing their belongings and slipping off into the increasingly crowded nationwide newspaper morgue.

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Filed under Media, Political Communication

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